By Chanapa Tantibanchachai
In an effort to improve air quality and educate their peers about the consequences of idling, a group of University of Utah students took matters into their own hands by launching an idle-free campus initiative.
Olivia Juarez, a U student who helped spearhead the initiative as a project for the Honors College’s Urban Ecology & Sustainability Scholars group, got the idea from her experience coordinating idle-free ordinance, outreach and education for the Salt Lake City government.
Though the city has an ordinance in place to prohibit unnecessary vehicle idling for longer than two minutes in all public spaces and public property, the ordinance doesn’t apply to the U campus.
“In general, it’s a misconception that [idling] isn’t a big deal, but most people don’t know that just two minutes of idling uses as much fuel as one mile of driving. The impact that has on our environment is terrible,” said Juarez.
“The problem with idling is that it’s an unconsciousness behavior. Most people just do it mindlessly while at the drive-thru or waiting to pick someone up. My hope with this initiative is to make people more aware of when they’re idling and help them become engaged in the community movement to improve air quality; I feel like the U can lead progress on the movement.”
During the fall 2015 semester, Juarez began the process of gaining approval from campus facilities management for placing signs around campus idling hotspots (pickup areas, parking lots areas for vendors, etc.), Juarez and the honors group created a host of outreach materials to hand out around campus.
“We really hope to make [not idling] a cultural expectation, to bring greater awareness of how individuals contribute to air pollution and to help people realize how easy it is to get healthier air,” said Juarez.
Anyone else who is interested in handing out outreach materials can go to the U’s Sill Center to pick up idle-free initiative flyers, stickers and cookies or contact Juarez at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Chanapa Tantibanchachai is an associate science writer at University Marketing and Communications. If you have an interesting story idea, email her at email@example.com.